10 misconceptions about children with autism busted!
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.
Autistic children are often misunderstood. Their actions are sometimes thought of in a manner that might be derogatory or they are clubbed with children with other disabilities. But did you know that autism is one of the most commonly misunderstood conditions? Well, here is an article by renowned author Ellen Notbohm about the 10 most common misconceptions about autistic children.
What?s the difference between a smarty and a dummy?
Merriam-Webster.com defines a smarty as ?a person who thinks and behaves as if she/he knows everything,? while a dummy is ?a stupid person.? As an autism parent, the smarties vex me more than the so-called dummies. In my mind, the dummy wins the smarts contest over the smarty, because the dummy likely knows he?s not the brightest bulb on the porch, while the smarty thinks he?s the klieg light. Lack of knowledge doesn?t make a person a dummy but, to paraphrase the poet Alexander Pope, a know-it-all lack of willingness to learn is a dangerous thing.
As we head toward Autism Awareness Month, I reflect on the eighteen years since Bryce?s diagnosis. At that time, the incidence of autism was 1 in 750; now it?s one in 88. There were misconceptions about autism back then, but ironically, so few people even knew the word that as awareness and understanding grew over the next two decades, so did the array of misconceptions. Today, despite notable advances in education, therapy and medicine, we still joust daily with autism myths and fallacies.
Autism misconception #1: All children with autism have savant-like abilities
Some children with autism have savant-like abilities. Most do not. Some people who don?t have autism have savant-like abilities. Most do not. Savants are rare, period. Many parents of children with autism resign themselves to fighting this fallacy with weary humour. When asked yet again about their child?s ?special gift,? they reply, ?Eating toilet paper? or ?Hoarding batteries.
Autism misconception #2: A child?s meltdowns and anxiety attacks are intentional or manipulative
Sensory overload, frustration, anger, persecution, fear, sleep deprivation, hunger, pain?for the child with autism, meltdowns always have a physiological or emotional source, and never come ?out of the blue.? Not only are there numerous organic reasons why he might melt down, but the notion that he manufactures such distress to ?get? the adults around him assumes a level of intent unlikely to be present in a child with autism.
Autism misconception #3: A child who is non-verbal has nothing to say
If someone taped your mouth shut and took away your communication devices, would that mean you have nothing to say? Or would you have your same thoughts, needs, wants and fears?but no way to express them? All humans need a functional means of communication. We?ve designated speech as our gold standard of interpersonal communication, the emphasis on ?using our words? so dominant that when children attempt to communicate nonverbally, we often don?t heed it. Yet words are only a small part of interpersonal communication. We communicate through the nuance , tone, inflection, pitch, speed and volume of our speech, through body language, facial expressions and emotional responses. It?s incumbent on us to listen to all the ways our kids are trying to communicate.